A critique of the new commonplaces. by Jacques Ellul

By Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul-much much less solemn in temper than usual-here cracks open political and sociological commonplaces, destructively and wittily demonstrating how our unthinking attractiveness of them encourages hypocrisy, smugness, and psychological inertia. one of the stereotypes of concept and speech therefore exploded are such words as "You cannot act with out getting your arms soiled" "Work is freedom" "We needs to keep on with the present of heritage" and "Women locate their freedom (dignity) in paintings" a definite variety of those outdated saws preside over our everyday life. they enable us to appreciate each other and to swim within the usual present of society. they're authorised as so convinced that we virtually by no means query them. They serve instantaneously as enough causes for every little thing and as "clinchers" in too many arguments. Ellul explores the ways that such clichés lie to us and forestall us from having autonomous thoughts-and actually maintain us from dealing with the issues to which they're theoretically addressed. they're the "new commonplaces" simply because the 19th century introduced forth many such commonplaces (they are enshrined in Leon Bloy's Exégése and Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçues), so our century has been busy developing its personal. What Ellul has performed is to face nonetheless lengthy sufficient to examine them conscientiously, assault them with cool cause, and depart them nakedly uncovered. during this impressive rfile, Ellul's caustic fearlessness is on the carrier of truths that regularly are merciless, yet consistently are lucid and impassioned. He represents the voice of intelligence, and whereas doing so is frequently hilarious and continuously healing approximately concerns of first value.

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False . modesty of the victor. " long as you do something! Still less Do anything at all, as does anybody ask him- worth the price he is ready to pay, the price of the filth, and if after all it might not be better to keep one's hands clean rather than do these idiotic things and undertake these pseudo-commitments, manifestos, announcements, signatures, and declarations. self whether The fact this action is is, of course, that it is difficult to draw the line between a political "action" whose own validity, significance, and complexities are almost impossible to discern and the moral, intellectual, or spiritual corruption to which the action forces you.

In other words, man's intelligence sees and creates a A Critique of the New Commonplaces 33 [ thread in history; the events that confirm are the good it worthy of being considered and retained as do not make history: you can dismiss them without difficulty; they are not even worth a glance. Fundamentally all you need do is decide what ones, the ones historical facts; the others history is: history everything that corresponds to a I call given evolution. Here, of course, shouldn't we we are on the level of fantasy, and why introduce some of that element into this aus- The only tere discipline?

The mistake code, for the only lesson to try to is make it into a life you can derive from it then and limited egoism. The of a vigorous, conservative, tion is that transi- from observation to theory introduces a new element; the pessimistic view of man translated into a cynical rule is for action. And this brings us from the Wisdom of Nations to the commonplace of the bourgeoisie. This group has had the courage and the innocence to formulate its rules of action into principles. An eminently dangerous operation!

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